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30UNDER30’s Kaitlin Sells on her architecture career highlights so far


Australian Design Review (ADR) recently revealed the 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World for 2023/2024. To celebrate, we are getting to know this exciting multidisciplinary cohort, the passions that drive their work and what makes them tick creatively.

First up is Kaitlin Sells, a Adelaide-based architect at JPE Design Studio. Sells’ design philosophy revolves around principles of resourcefulness, reuse and minimisation of construction – a distinctive approach within the field of architecture.

ADR: Where did your love for architecture originate?

KS: I grew up moving around a lot with my parents both overseas and in Australia, so we were always going to open homes, inspecting properties to live in, visiting displays and travelling around. My parents were always talking about property and I started taking an interest in buildings and houses in particular from a very young age. I remember as a girl, I would come home from school and couldn’t wait to sit down and draw up floor plans and design my own homes and then use Lego to build my designs. I found the imagination aspect of it really engaging and I think that’s part of why I still love it today. 

Do you have a preference for a particular style of architecture?

I have always loved working with heritage buildings and adaptive reuse projects. I think there is something really beautiful in the richness of existing buildings but also in the challenges that come with a high number of constraints. I think these projects force you to come up with out-of-the-box solutions and there is a great opportunity on a deeper level to weave in the stories of a place into the design itself.

What does sustainability mean for you?

Sometimes I think the term sustainability is thrown around and not considered holistically enough. For me, sustainability is so much more than just making sure a building is environmentally considered and responsive. It should also look into how we are sustaining and contributing to the communities that the building impacts, and how we are celebrating the importance of the place, its historical significance and any stories that make up the fabric of that place. 

Is there a particular project you’ve worked on that has been the highlight of your career so far?

My career highlight is a project I’ve been working on for the last three and a half years. It’s a major mixed-use development on a landmark site in Brisbane CBD – two towers, three levels of podium with retail and commercial offerings, the adaptive reuse of a heritage building and a major public realm offering with laneways, boutique bars and green space. It’s an extremely complex project with a number of both private and public stakeholders. I’ve been working closely with the project director from the bid and it’s one of those projects that levels up your career. To have had the opportunities I have had on such an iconic project that will have a major impact on Brisbane’s skyline is really special.

How did it feel to make it into ADR’s 30UNDER30? 

It was sort of surreal when I found out that I had made it into the 30UNDER30. It was one of those things where I saw the calibre of finalists and thought, wow! There are some really impressive people who are making waves early in their careers, so to be named among them is so special and such an honour.

ADR’s 30UNDER30 Architects and Innovators of the Built World stream is brought to you by major sponsor Neolith, alongside Miele, Interface and Tongue & Groove. The program is also supported by practice partners BVN, HDR INC, SJB, Richard Stanisich, Williams Burton Leopardi, and Billard Leece Partnership.To find out more about the final 30, including their places of work and discipline areas, head to the 30UNDER30 page.


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